Sue commented that this piece of ice from Icewatch, London (See yesterday’s post) reminded her of the Polar Bear in the Musee d’Orsay in Paris. This is one of our favourite pieces of art and a must visit everytime we are in the city.

Photo by Steve Elliott (

Which is all the excuse I need to publish some pictures of this wonderful piece of sculpture by Francois Pompon. I don’t know why I like it so much but there is something so clean and stylish about it and I love that questioning look on his face.

Photo by Wally Gobetz (

It is also a reminder that Polar Bears are really suffering due to the break up of Arctic ice which is restricting their ranges and causing shortages of food.

Ice-Watch London

Posted: December 13, 2018 in Art, London, Natural History, UK

“Put your hand on the ice, listen to it, smell it, look at it – and witness the ecological changes our world is undergoing” Olafur Eliasson

An artwork by Olafur Eliasson and Minik Rosing in the City of London. It aims to provide an immediate, tangible testimony to the effects of Climate change. The Greenland ice sheet is losing 200 to 300 billion tonnes of ice every year, raising sea levels around the globe. These large blocks came from a fjord in Greenland, where they had already detached from the ice sheet, just like 10,000 other such blocks which detach from the ice sheet every day.

24 hours later

The blocks will be on display until 21st December or whenever they melt away.

24 hours later

Thanks to Sue for the photographs


Posted: December 12, 2018 in Natural History

I was unsettled to read in the paper the other day that there are large and powerful lobbying organisations who sole premise is the removal of regulations: Tax, Environmental, Conservation, Social Benefits, Health and safety from our law books. The motive so that rich people can make even more money and **** the rest of society.


“You may drive out nature with a pitchfork, but she will always return.”   –Horace
“In nature there are neither rewards nor punishments–there are consequences.”  –Robert Ingersoll

There are more indications of how close to the precipice of extinction we have driven the planet.  The wintering population of monarch butterflies in California used to be in the millions, now it is less than 100-thousand.

The Trump Administration wants to drill for oil in land once saved from development for the helpless Sage Grouse.  What good is some silly bird if there’s a profit to be had from public land?

We are, unnaturally, poisoning ourselves along with the rest of planet.  Plastic stools of the fecal variety…

More and more scientists remind us of what happened the last time there was a crucial heating of the earth…uit was widespread death.


In New Zealand waters divers got…

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This cat has been in the garden for a few days chasing the Grey Squirrels, without much sucess. They just run up the trees and sit on the branches looking at the cat. Catch me if you can!

The cat spent a few days patrollling round the bottom of the tree waiting for the squirrels to come down, which of course they don’t. So eventually it took the plunge and tried to climb the tree. It got so far and stopped. It looked around as if to say ‘oops now what do I do’. Eventually it realised that if it let go it would land back on solid ground. But it wasnt finished, it took a longer run up and ended up in exactly the same place. Again after considering the options it dropped back to the ground and slunk off. Squirrels 1 Cat 0.

Well it had seemed a good plan at the time!

LSWR M7 No 245

Posted: December 10, 2018 in History, Trains

The M7 class locomotive came into service in 1897 and was primarily used on the London Network of the London and South Western Railway (LWSR). In all 105 engines were built between 1897 and 1911. In later years they became common on branch lines as other newer locomotives replaced them on suburban passenger services.

Loco 245 is one of the original 1897 batch. It was withdrawn from service in 1962.

The M7’s were withdrawn from service starting in 1957 and by 1964 there were no more running on network lines. Two survive in preservation No 245, which is in the National Railway Collection and No 53 on the Swanage Railway.

Birdlog: Blackcaps are back!

Posted: December 7, 2018 in Birds, Natural History
Tags: ,

Continuing my look back over the 5 years of the blog. This was certainly a highlight for our garden (posted April 2013). For a couple of years, we had both summering and wintering Blackcaps in the garden, But sadly none since although I did find a pair by the Tarn in both summer 2017 and this past summer.

April 2013

Following on from my brief sighting of a female blackcap a week or so ago I have had no more summer visitors in the garden. Imagine my surprise this morning when I pulled the curtains to find these two in the bushes. The male was hanging on a branch and then reaching out as far as he could to feed on a flower head below him



Born sometime around 207 AD, Severus succeeded his cousin Elagabalus, when the latter was assassinated. He was 15 years old at the time and this made Severus the youngest of all Roman Emporers at that time.

Severus Alexander (Liverpool Museum)

He was an able administrator and most of his reign was a prosperous time for the empire. He had an open opinion on religion and reformed the rights of soldiers.

In 231, the Sassanids invaded the eastern empire. The accounts of the campaign are contradictory. Herodian records a number of defeats for the Romans, but Historia Augusta and Severus own dispatches record great victories. However, Severus did recover the lost territory and prevent further incursion into the empire, at least for the present. In 234 the German tribes crossed the Rhine and Danube borders. Concerned that his army was not in a fit state to face the invaders, Severus sought a diplomatic solution and if this should fail, bribery.

This didn’t sit well with the legions, who felt such an approach dishonoured them and their abilities. There had been a growing discontent amongst the legions and this was the final straw. He was assassinated by a group of soldiers on 19th March 235 and the legion acclaimed Gaius Lulius Verus Maximus, a soldier from Thrace, as Emporer. Severus had reigned for 13 years and most of these had been prosperous for the empire.

Many historians see the assassination of Severus as the beginning of a crisis in the empire which would last for 50 years. It would be a time of invasion, civil war and economic failure. In the next 50 years, there would be 26 claimants to the throne of the Emporer. It would see the establishment, and subsequent fall, of a number of independent regions within the empire and would only end when Diocletian gained the throne in 284. It is interesting to note that although immediately after his death Severus was condemned by the Senate, within a few years of Maximus’ death in 238, they had deified Severus, recognising, in hindsight, the stability he had bought to the empire.

Canada Goose

Posted: December 5, 2018 in Birds, Natural History

The Canada Goose is one of our common resident geese, Introduced from North America from the late 17th century it has spread across almost the whole of the UK and is often found on city lakes and in parks as well as in the countryside.

It is estimated that there are around 62,000 breeding pairs in the UK with a peak population of around 190,000 birds.

Flock of Canada Geese with a single Greylag Goose (centre)

This statue of General Gordon is located in the riverside park at Gravesend in Kent, close to Gordon Promenade and Khartoum Square.

Gordon had been born in SE London in 1833, the son of an army officer. Gordon and all of his brothers joined the army when they were old enough. His first commision was to oversee the construction of defences at Milford Haven in Wales. It was whilst stationed here that he became a Christian, although he never aligned himself with any denomination and enjoyed attending services in many different churches. He once remarked to a priest that the church was much like the army ‘one army, but many different regiments’. 

He saw service in Crimea and China before returning to the UK in 1864 and was placed in command of the defences of the River Thames and its estuary. He based himself at Gravesend. His views on the defence of the river were ignored but, under protest, he carried out the plans of the War Office. In Gravesend Gordon is not remembered for his military activities, but for his work with the poor and homeless of the town including teaching at the ‘Ragged School’, feeding and housing homeless boys and the dedication on his statue ranks this work over any of his other achievements. He spent much of his salary on his chariable projects.

He left Gravesend in 1871 to work on the Danube navigation and then as war graves inspector in the Crimea. whilst on this trip he met the Prime Minister of Eygpt and he was attached to Eygptian forces (with the consent of the British Army). He was appointed governor of Equatoria (South Sudan and Northern Uganda). He did much to suppress the slave trade in the area. Eventually he became Governor-General of the Sudan. He worked to abolish torture and public floggings and became well-known for his obstenacy. He once joked that ‘the Gordons and camels are of the same race. let them get an idea into their heads and nothing will take it out’. He did much to maintain peace in the Sudan, including on one occasion riding into the rebel camp armed only with his cane to demand the surrender of the rebel forces.

Exhausted he resigned in 1879 and returned to London. He was in much demand. the King of Belgium offered him the Governorship of the Congo and the Cape Colony approached him to become its military commander. He became private secretary to the Governor-General of India but resigned after a few weeks because he found it boring. Against the wishes of the British Government, he travelled to China to try and broker peace in the tensions between China and Russia. After predicting that the actions of the ruling elite would eventually lead to a revolution of the people he was expelled from Beijing. Under threat of discharge from the army, Gordon returned to London. He set about championing land reform in Ireland, much to the annoyance of William Gladstone, the prime minister. He was soon sent off to command the Royal engineers in Mauritius, building defences against a possible Russian attack. He was posted to the Cape province the following year and in 1882 went to Palestine, where he visited the historic sites of Christianity.

He returned to London in 1883 and he was sent to Sudan to counter the Sudanese revolt led by the Mahdi. The situation worsened and following the defeat of the Egyptian army, Gordon was sent to Khartoum to evacuate the city. However, the Egyptians had other ideas and pressed him to take control and expel the Mahdi and his forces and he soon decided to hold the city against the rebel forces. The siege of Khartoum began in March 1884. The British Government had decided to abandon Sudan, hence the evacuation plan, but Gordon had other ideas and had great public support. In August the British Government bowed to public pressure and issued the orders for a relief force to be sent to Khartoum, but it was not until November that it was ready to leave.

In January 1885, the fort at Omdurman fell to the rebels enabling them to fire with cannon on the city. The relief force defeated a rebel army on 18 January leading the Mahdi to realise that if he was going to capture the city he needed to do so before the relief force arrived. It took only an hour for them to breach the defences and thereafter killed 10000 soldiers and civilians including Gordon. The relief force arrived on 28 January, two days after the city had fallen. Under heavy fire, they turned back from the city.

The failure to rescue Gordon was a major blow to the government’s popularity and Queen Victoria sent a telegram rebuking Gladstone for his lack of action. This was leaked to the press and added to the government’s unpopularity. Stones were thrown at the windows of 10 Downing Street and Gladstone was dubbed ‘Murderer of Gordon’. But they stuck by there decision to abandon Sudan.

The Mahdi, encouraged by the lack of international action established a state which reversed many of the reforms Gordon had introduced. It is estimated that between 1885 and 1898 approx 8 million people died in the lands controlled by the Mahdi. Eventually, in 1898 a force under general Kitchener comprehensively destroyed the rebel army at Omdurman. It was subsequently revealed that the expedition had eventually been sent because the British Government was concerned that the French might try to liberate Sudan and establish control.

On Saturday Keith and I went to see The Barbarians (an invitational international side) play Argentina at Twickenham.

The Barbarians warmed up for the game in front of us going through their pre-match drills.

Down below us was the BBC TV crew with the expert analysts

And then the match began. Barabarians score first but then Argentina score 4 tries and at the quarter the score is 28-7 to Argentina and we are thinking this is going to be a whitewash with Argentina possibly scoring 100 points if it carries on at this rate. But the Barbarians fight back and get a penalty try just before half-time.

Now the game is really boiling and both sides are trying to play fast, attractive rugby. Barbarians score another try and get within 7 points. 

Argentina replies with a try of their own and gets a 14 point cushion but back came the Barbarians and score 2 tries to even the score with 2 minutes to go.

Then Barbarians get the ball near the Argentina line and then it is shipped back to the fly-half who kicks for goal. The ground erupts as the kick flies between the posts! Now all Barbarians have to do is hold onto the ball until the clock runs out and this they do. A Great game of rugby.